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WhatsApp upgrades its disappearing messages feature

WhatsApp will now allow you to make your messages vanish for all new chats. It’s a feature that means that all messages sent within a conversation will disappear after a period of time, with the company letting you choose between a day, a week, or three months.

“As more of our conversations move from face-to-face to digital, we acknowledge there is a certain magic in just sitting down with someone in-person, sharing your thoughts in confidence, knowing you are both connecting in private and in that moment. The freedom to be honest and vulnerable, knowing that conversation isn’t being recorded and stored somewhere forever,” the WhatsApp team explained.  The feature is rolling out now on iOS and Android. Enabling it is done by opening the WhatsApp settings and navigating to Account>Privacy>Default Message Timer.

WhatsApp's new page for managing message visibility durations.
WhatsApp

When you enable disappearing messages for a chat, all messages in that chat will be deleted when the specified time is reached. This will happen even if the message is not opened before the time limit is reached. At the same time, there are some exceptions. A deleted message will remain visible in the notifications preview if WhatsApp isn’t opened, depending on your operating system. Messages that are quote replied could remain visible in the quote, and deleted messages that are forwarded to another chat will not be deleted.

WhatsApp also notes that deleted messages aren’t foolproof as far as privacy goes and should really only be used with a trusted party. As mentioned, forwarding a message is a worry, but so is screenshotting, capturing the message with another phone’s camera, or just copying and pasting the message in a notes app. It’s been a problem in other apps featuring ephemeral messaging like Snapchat, though those apps do send screenshot alerts to alert the other party that a screenshot was taken.

Disappearing messages can be set as default for all new chats, or can be enabled manually in existing chats — both individual and group. A notification will alert participants when the feature is turned on.

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